All That Matters: Women’s Rights in Childbirth, a Guardian Shorts original – my review

‘I want to say that a healthy baby is not all that matters and that, resoundingly, it all matters. This is the story of women, of why they matter too, and the things that happen when they are pushed to the bottom of a hierarchy in birth’ ~ Rebecca Schiller, ‘All That Matters…’ 2015

 In All That Matters: Women’s Rights in Childbirth, a Guardian Shorts original, Rebecca Schiller succinctly explains why women’s right in childbirth are so important, and illustrates the myriad ways that human rights abuses in childbirth are occurring around the world. She takes you on a world tour, with the personal accounts – that illustrate her points so well – coming from women as far afield as Tanzania, the Australian outback, New York and London.

Childbirth is a time when women are simultaneously at their most powerful and their most vulnerable. How women are treated at this time has enormous ramifications, not just for them, their baby and their family but for society as a whole. As Rebecca puts it:

‘As a mirror to society, childbirth, the attitudes to it, practices around it and experiences of women going through it, reflect the progress that has been made in advancing women’s rights. This reflection also shows us that there’s still a long road ahead.’ ~ Rebecca Schiller, ‘All That Matters…’ 2015

This book covers a difficult subject with eloquence and skill. Rebecca’s passion as a mother, doula and campaigner shine through, making easy to read a well-researched and in-depth book with some harrowing tales to tell. Some of her personal experiences are related, and she makes it clears that, despite all the negative stories, birth itself is not something to be feared and there are many positive things happening to celebrate.

Rebecca lays out her arguments with skill, debunking the myths that “all that matters is a healthy baby”, that there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to give birth from a feminist viewpoint and that human rights in birth are not something we should all be concerned about.

The book is clearly incredibly well researched and leading figures from the worlds of human rights, midwifery and obstetrics are quoted (along with myself – the only bit of the book I didn’t much like reading!).

This is a book that should be a ‘must-read’ for anyone with an interest in birth, human rights, birth rights or feminism. As a comprehensive introduction to a topic, I think it cannot be beaten.

All That Matters: Women’s Rights in Childbirth is to be published (as an e-book) on 20 February 2015, priced £1.99 with 10% of the profits going to Birthrights.